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A usability rant. [rant] Even though I've been using linux for about two and a half years now, I still find it, very much an "uphill struggle". Currently, I've got ...
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  1. #1
    Just Joined! bigjohn's Avatar
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    I'm in the mood for.......


    A usability rant.
    [rant]
    Even though I've been using linux for about two and a half years now, I still find it, very much an "uphill struggle".

    Currently, I've got a couple of things on the go.

    1. Being able to plug my partners laptop in and be able to print from it.

    2. Being able to sync (well, resync) my PDA/Smartphone device.

    3. Being able to download the images from my digital camera and manipulate then with the gimp and print them off.

    Now I don't think that I'm stupid, but it would appear that the more complex/clever that linux apps become, the worse the documentation/assistance gets.

    Now just to make things clear, I should also point out that forum/community type assistance is even better.

    So whats the problem? Well in my view, one of the bigger things that I've yet to find in the linux world is a dictionary/glossary type site that explains what some of the "terms" used in linux docs actually mean.

    Yes, I understand that some "things" will be distro specific. Though that shouldn't stop such a site being built.

    "So start one yourself" I hear you say. Well, in truth, if I could get passed the lingo/techspeak/jargon, I would probably try.

    For example, this afternoon, I wanted to rip some more of my CD collection so that I could upload it to my PDA/Smartphone (admittedly it's Pocket PC based). One of the guys from my LUG had been kind enough to come over and set it up. I'd book marked the the site that I'd used for info on how to drive it.

    I then noticed that for reasons that I don't understand, it now doesn't want to talk to my system - OK part of the problem may be the device, but when I tried to check the site to see what I need to look into, nothing. Nothing, but a barrage of acronyms, jargon, techspeak.

    Which means that at the moment, I can get nowhere with it.

    When will those in the FOSS community wake up to the fact that while some people feel that linux is ready for the desktop, it'll never be until the whole of the linux world is stumbling, where the money grabbing gits at M$ can continue to laugh all the way to the bank.

    When "Blair" got to no 10 in 1997, one of his party speeches said "education, education, education". When the mantra that should be chanted at the linux world is "usability, usability, usability".

    It's damn all good having brilliantly capable applications if only the hobbyist/enthusiast/technically trained can use them.

    Any major network, is made up of IRO 1% technicians and 99% users, who don't give a **** how it works, they just want/need it to work.

    Another example, particularly jargon. I use gentoo, everynow and again, I'll do the daily process of
    Code:
    # emerge resync
    followed by
    Code:
    # emerge -upD world
    and
    Code:
    # emerge -uD world
    .

    Now I'm lucky in my choice of distro, because portage (the gentoo package management system) is brilliant, but I'm also lucky that I've had no real problems with it (some minor, but nothing too cause me any trouble, system wise).

    Every now and again, it will through up a newer kernel version. Most of the time, I don't know why this is, but have to presume that it's because of a bug, security or compatibility issue (sure I appreciate that major revisions are often about added/enhanced ability).

    When this happens, there's a nice HOWTO at the gentoo site about kernel upgrades, but what am I really doing? I don't know, or can't find out enough about my hardware in an in depth manner to be able to do whatever it is that happens with /makemenuconfig, or just stuff like ./make and the like. I've managed to learn enough that I can manage a kernel upgrade with a facility called "genkernel" - but what am I actually doing?????

    Is that what's known as compiling a kernel? I don't know, because I can't locate anything that tells me that in the documentation.

    It's like going to see a Doctor with a nicely written list of ailments/symptoms, but being blindfolded and wearing ear plugs during the consultation.

    Perhaps it's better if developers ask for proper testing assistance in places where linux n00b's are found. Forums like this and linuxquestions etc etc. Under a specific section, that points to the app, docs/howto's etc and a brief explaination of what the app is actually for/doing. Where no comment or question is too small!

    Not just the usual, dump it in sourceforge and hope that "they" get some feedback.

    Come on you dev types, how about improved usability?
    [/rant]

    OK, I feel better now, even if my problems still sit there unresolved!

    regards

    John

    p.s. Yes, I do feel that some of the docs that I've read at the gentoo site are better than most, but they're a long way from perfect!

  2. #2
    Linux Engineer adrenaline's Avatar
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    Do you feel better?
    I hope so.
    Here is the common misconception. People think that Linux is a Windows alternative. Linux is an OS it is not so If people don't want to pay for M$ they can just use Linux. I would be happy if Linux never becomes a desktop replacement.
    Believe me I get frustrated with the usability of Linux sometimes too. But then I remember all of the freedom I have when I have to configure it or figure out how to make something work.
    I have the same issues with my TV card and my palm pilot getting it to work with my Linux. But I use Linux for everything else that My M$ machine is really my alternative to LInux.
    You are frustrated because there is so much freedom that you need to learn everything to get it to work. Trust me it does get easier but as technology moves on you will always have to learn something. That isn't too bad is it? Keeps the brain exercised. I don't know Gentoo myself and Slackware keeps me busy, but maybe you should experiment with a different os.
    As far as Lingo. Like you said there are a lot of distro specific lingo - don't worry about that only worry about your distro lingo. These forums are great to help you with that. There are no stupid questions, and there are a lot of people on this forum that love to help out as much as they can.
    Try not to compare M$ with Linux or even MAC or Unix, they are all different.
    Just to let you know. After I get done ironing out the little issues I have in slackware. I have never had it freeze up or automagically reboot or virus out or have a corrupt registry. I just say this to say that all OS's have their own problems.
    I like Linux because of the freedom and I don't want it taken away for useabitlity.
    Also there are distros that are a little easier to use that Gentoo. You can try SuSE personal or Xandros if that is what you are looking for.

    I hope you don't take anything I said personally I just wanted to give you a different perspective.

    If you dissaggree no worries.

    Cheers,
    Mike
    Some people have told me they don't think a fat penguin really embodies the grace of Linux, which just tells me they have never seen a angry penguin charging at them in excess of 100mph. They'd be a lot more careful about what they say if they had.
    -- Linus Torvalds

  3. #3
    Linux Guru techieMoe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adrenaline
    Here is the common misconception. People think that Linux is a Windows alternative. Linux is an OS it is not so If people don't want to pay for M$ they can just use Linux. I would be happy if Linux never becomes a desktop replacement.
    That about sums up my feelings on the matter.
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  4. #4
    Just Joined! bigjohn's Avatar
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    Yeah, sorry, I was in a "bastards, bastards, bastards" sort of mood.

    I can honestly say (especially that now I'm not in a bad mood) is that by and large I do enjoy using linux, but it would be fair to admit that I probably started with the wrong intentions i.e. I like the freedom linux offers, but I started using linux because of ethical/moral reasons i.e. I have nothing against their "kit" per se, but I very much dislike their greedy, monopolistic, under handed and damn right shady business practices (the current software patents business in Europe for a point in fact).

    But my "soap box" subject with linux will, I suspect, always be poor documentation.

    The great and good of the linux world are working on a technical level, many times higher, than we "mere mortals". So that'd be enough to forgive them, but to have to get a translator to understand what the hell they're telling me, well it's just so disappointing.

    After all, one of the major benefits of having such a mean and ****** competitor (cos that's exactly what they are) like M$, is that they HAVE caused the hardware costs to plummet like a stone (sure I know the "no bloody linux drivers" stuff), but hey, I don't mind paying for a specific device that does have support. Though I do get so frustrated when I comes not being able to comprehend the docs, because the author just has clean forgotten just how much "prior knowledge" baggage they actually carry around - usually a considerable amount.

    I mean, if I saw Richard Stallman in the street (unlikely), the best I could come up with would be "thanks for your efforts", unless he happened to be into drinking draft beers in their original manufacturing locations (sorry, most of em just don't travel irrespective of what the damned adverts tell us!).

    As for trying a different distro? well I've have a go at pretty much most of the variations - arriving at gentoo because I can update the whole thing with just 1 command. Oh and the package manager does full dependency checks (unlike slack? ).

    The only possible move I would make would be to a debian derivative (not debian itself, it's too slow and backward in the way "they" integrate new packages), dunno something like hard disced knoppix, maybe Ubuntu or something along those lines.

    I feel that documentation should by default, be written for complete beginners, because those of you in the linux world with the massive amounts of the "prior knowledge" can probably skip any parts that seem to aimed at a lowly position.

    Of course, this is just opinion (and certainly very unlikely to have any effect on the linux world at large - I just wish there was idiot level guidance on databases, php, perl, etc etc then I'd have a go at producing an idiots index/glossary/appendix of terms myself - but I probably won't as I'd get stressed even more than I was the other day with my first post!)

    Thanks for the replies both, I do like to hear others opinions on whatever I want to rant about at a given time (even if I was spouting rubbish/breathing flames at the time)

    regards

    John

  5. #5
    Linux Guru techieMoe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigjohn
    But my "soap box" subject with linux will, I suspect, always be poor documentation.
    I must agree with you there. Telling someone to read a man page on something assumes they understand HOW to read man pages, which requires prior knowledge of WHAT a man page is.. it's like mental 'dependency hell'.
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  6. #6
    Linux Guru loft306's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adrenaline
    Here is the common misconception. People think that Linux is a Windows alternative. Linux is an OS it is not so If people don't want to pay for M$ they can just use Linux. I would be happy if Linux never becomes a desktop replacement.
    why replace? we are set to overrun pummel them into the ground and there are distros that are out there that will deal with thoes that need a very unsecure way of doing things but windows will go an and hopefully in another life (longhorn) solve many of it's flaws im not saying that i'll use it but my mind is open to it...though just slightly
    I must agree with you there. Telling someone to read a man page on something assumes they understand HOW to read man pages, which requires prior knowledge of WHAT a man page is.. it's like mental 'dependency hell'.
    im 1.5 years into linux and still cant understand some man's...(the ones that Gentoo hasnt rewritten)
    ~Mike ~~~ Forum Rules
    Testing? What's that? If it compiles, it is good, if it boots up, it is perfect. ~ Linus Torvalds
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  7. #7
    Linux Guru dylunio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by techieMoe
    I must agree with you there. Telling someone to read a man page on something assumes they understand HOW to read man pages, which requires prior knowledge of WHAT a man page is.. it's like mental 'dependency hell'.
    The first time I was told to read a man page (I think it was ChrisH that told me, but whatever) I had NO clue what he was on about, and I started looking within the SuSE documentation on the comp for them, I did find some gui versions of something calle 'man pages' but they were empty, and I was at a lost what to do, a few monthe later I learnt the
    Code:
    man
    commend.

    dylunio
    Registered Linux User #371543!
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  8. #8
    Linux Engineer adrenaline's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigjohn
    But my "soap box" subject with linux will, I suspect, always be poor documentation.
    I agree with you there too, but that is why I rely and maybe too much on my friends here.

    cheers,
    Mike
    Some people have told me they don't think a fat penguin really embodies the grace of Linux, which just tells me they have never seen a angry penguin charging at them in excess of 100mph. They'd be a lot more careful about what they say if they had.
    -- Linus Torvalds

  9. #9
    Just Joined! bigjohn's Avatar
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    The more I think about the "documentation problem", the more I can see why linux doc's are, by and large, a pile of pooh!

    It'd be fair to say, that those of us in the linux world capable of "developing" are, more often than not, working on a considerably higher technical level, than the vast majority of "us".

    Hence, they probably do make considerable effort to write good docs, what I suspect, they're missing, is that because they've probably forgotten more about linux that I'm likely to learn in a lifetime, they also forget just how much "presumed knowledge" that they take for granted.

    In fact not just take for granted, with "them" it's instinctive. The example that I often used, is that if you came to me for driving lessons in an articulated HGV, then when it came to your turn to "have a go" I'd be screaming at you to watch your mirrors and to make sure that you make your turns as wide and as late as possible. Not just because I do that instinctively, but because of the bigger incentive, that if one of those blokes with a funny shaped head see's you, the fine is in the region of 100 for each time you put the trailer up the kerb.

    The reason that that's not necessarily a good example, is because with professional driving, it's a daily competition to keep you wages in your pocket (vvv easy to loose the lot in fines), but also because it's a voluntary/community thing, though I'd also have to point out that a good app, with professional looking/sounding docs, does the community no end of good, it makes us all look professional, not just the developer, but all linux users.

    Then of course, it makes "doing stuff" so much easier for the newbie types, and if they have a good initial "linux experience" then they're far likely to "make the switch"!

    regards

    John

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